Friday, December 17, 2010

'Tis the season... for pictures!

new Christmas pictures are up! click the link below for a glimpse of Christmas in Germany!


Last night around 6pm school was canceled for today due to an expected "enormous snowfall". At first it felt a little reminiscent of Georgia (you know, the "OMG it might rain AND be below freezing tonight - which is how snow is made. I think. Maybe... but we should cancel school anyway, just in case!" usually ending with a beautiful sunny winter day with highs in the 50's). But as Gemma and I left Bamberg around 12:30 last night, the previously clear streets were already buried under several inches of snow.

The snow continued all night and is still going strong right now (I've conveniently set up shop in the kitchen where I can face out the window as I type - watching snow fall hasn't gotten old for me yet). Gemma and I planned our snow day out last night on the way home from the train station - one mile, in the snow, uphill... no seriously - and it includes braving the winter storm to stock up on wine and camp out inside playing cards all day! I am very lucky to have been placed with someone who appreciates card playing just as much as me.

I've made a cup of my new tea - an "advent blend", a gift from a teacher - but it's actual tea leaves and this is my first time using a tea strainer, so I'm working on figuring out just how much to put in. Right now it's a little weak, but I have all day to tea test! I can easily say that watching the snow fall, drinking delicious tea, and the Sufjan Stevens Christmas CD make for a fantastic morning.

Short, but sweet. Trying to cater to the all the attention deficits roaming the internet.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

for real, a VLOG post!

dear internet, I appreciate your patience over the past month of no videos... but now the time has come to post a much much much overdue vlog!

Monday, November 29, 2010

new pictures!

New pictures are up including Thanksgiving and our first snow!

**be sure to scroll to the bottom of the album for the new pictures**

The promise for a Vlog of yesteryear

Hello world (or the 3 people that read this...), just popping in to tell you that I haven't forgotten to update about our amazing Thanksgiving festivities last week, I'm just planning on making a VLOG for it! Hopefully I can get it up by the end of the week, but you just never know!

I've been surprisingly busy these past couple weeks. Aside from my rigorous 12 hour work week - which requires little to no planning - I've been working on a 20+ page translation from German to English, enjoying the company of visitors (Gemma's parents came for a weekend), visiting other ETAs around Bavaria, and just generally enjoying life in Germany! But things are calming down before the winter break (exactly the opposite from home, were finals hit right before the holiday and you get so stressed and busy you want to pull your hair out before it all comes grinding to a halt just in time to go Christmas shopping and settle down for a couple days of holiday), so I'm hopeful that the posting will pick up.

I would like to commend Germany on being right on time with its Christmas mood-setting. Like clockwork, it started snowing on Thanksgiving, and by the time we woke up the next day, there was snow on the rooftops and tree tops and hillsides in the distance. Things really picked up this morning when I woke up to at least an inch of snow on the ground - and it's still coming down. I decided I would live on the edge and try to ride my bike to school despite the many warnings against such ideas. After riding my breaks all the way down the hill of our street to the main road (which I take all the way into town) I found the bike lane to be covered with all the snow pushed aside by cars. So I rode on the painted white line, barely visible beneath the sludge, separating the road from what was previously the bike lane. I made it no more than half a block before I was splattered by not one, not two, but three cars! at this point I decided to ride on the side walk, safely away from the cars kicking up dirt and snow slush onto innocent bikers. The rest of my ride proved more frightening than actually dangerous. When I got to the end of this road I had two choices: 1. continue on my bike up the hill and across the bridge, or 2. carry my bike down to the pedestrian walk way under the road and not risk hills and bridges. Having already worn out my sense of adventure for the day, I opted for the latter, carrying my bike down and walking it safely to the other side of the train tracks. When I reemerged from the pedestrian tunnel at the train station I knew I had to decide if I should continue on bike or foot. While standing and deciding I saw several other bikers pass by - if they can do it, so can I! Then I looked pass the bikers and saw the cars. Those fast driving, sludge slinging, road hogging cars. I locked my bike up safely at the train station and continued the rest of the way on foot. It was really a nice walk, I got to take a lot of pictures and actually enjoy the snow, instead of fear it. Looks like I won't be doing much biking till Germany thaws out, but I can't say I didn't try!

But why were you going to school this morning? I'm sure your first thoughts are all concern for my standard three day weekends... Well, I'm swapping my off day this week (Monday) so that I can meet my Aunt and Uncle in Frankfurt on Thursday while they have a 12 hour lay over. I'm very excited! My first familiar faces in almost 3 months!

So keep your eye out for a the next Vlog... and until then, you can find me making snow angels all over Germany!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Catch up

Oh hey blog, I almost forgot you were there! I'm sorry I've been so horrible about posting this month (3 posts for November so far, compared to the 14 of October. And not a single vlog!).

But lets not focus on my short-comings as a blogger...

Life has definitely been picking up since we last talked. Gemma and I finally got paid so we've been able to leave the apartment without fear! But there was some irreparable damage done... for example, the fact that we discovered a mutual love of wine and card games, making it much less exciting to leave the apartment when the promise of both waits for us at home.

On Wednesday we had a day off (some obsolete religious holiday that only the schools still observe), so Gemma, Andy (an ETA in Erlangen -click his name for a link to his vlog-), and I went down to Munich for the day to meet some other friends, 2 from Munich and another from Passau. The actual reason for the trip was to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in English, but visiting friends and seeing Munich was an added bonus. We all felt honored (dare I say, unworthy?) that such a big movie was being released in Germany 2 days before its US release? For once we had the upper hand in pop culture by being in Germany (trust me, this doesn't happen very often).

I'll spare you a full movie review, but I do want to say that I thought the movie was fantastic! There were parts that weren't great, and plenty of details from the book were missing. But people need to stop expecting movies to live up to books, in general. There is no way you can fit every detail from a book into a movie. Not only just because of time constraints, but also because the two mediums, book vs. film, don't always allow for the same channels to inform the audience. Where, in a book, an important detail can be brought to light simply by the narrator mentioning it, in a movie, it would have to be added in a character's line or somehow visualized. So while the movie is based off the book, you can't watch it with the expectations of it being exactly the same.

right, sorry about that little tangent... back to life in Germany?

Not too much new or exciting at school. I'm starting to worry about changing schools with Gemma in March (that's when their semesters change), because I'm just now settling and feeling comfortable with my teachers and the way my school works. I still don't even know half the teachers' names (even some that I've worked with several times....)

I did get to make an awesome Quiz about drinking/going out in the US (click the link to the quiz for an idea of what kind of stuff we're allowed to talk about in school as opposed to in the US).

Gemma's parents are in town this weekend, so they have been out seeing the area. I met them for dinner in Nürnberg last night. But it ended up being the biggest night of coincidences. Gemma&co. were headed to Bamberg for the afternoon then to Nürnberg for the evening and dinner. My plan was to take a later train and just meet them for dinner. As it turned out, they ended up leaving Bamberg later than expected and we ended up on the same train down to Nürnberg. Then when we were walking around Nürnberg we decided to stop for our first glühwein of the season. Suddenly I heard someone say "Emily..." and since Emily isn't the most popular name in Germany, I was immediately suspicious. It turned about to be 2 other ETAs from Nürnberg who were supposed to meeting our other friend from the Erlangen area and her boyfriend. So there we were, all 8 of us, just having happened upon each other in the middle of Nürnberg!

It ended up being a fun night! Unfortunately there is a lot of construction going on on the railway between Nürnberg and Forchheim, so we had to take a bus to Erlangen. Well the bus dropped us off in Erlangen at 11:40pm and the next train wasn't due till 12:39. So we waited, in the cold, for an hour. But there were brownies from our newly working oven waiting for us at home, so it was all worth it in the end!

I'll leave you with this for now. I hope all of you in the US enjoy your Thanksgiving break and have a great holiday!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Life below the poverty line

"We strongly recommend bringing enough money to last 4 - 6 weeks (1,000-1,500€) when you first arrive." A wise suggestion from the PAD (long story, I know I'm here with Fulbright, but the PAD is really the organization in charge of everything, including pay).

Well, here we are 10 weeks since I started here in Germany and the only money my account has seen was travel reimbursement from Fulbright. Most of my Fulbright friends were paid within the first 2 weeks of October, but I wasn't worried, because I still knew people getting paid in the 3rd week. Well, as the last week of the month arrived, with our week long fall break on it's heels (this past week), I started to worry. I approached my teachers with my concerns and they reciprocated, so on Friday they called the powers that be inquiring about our payment. We were then told to give it to the end of the this week and if, by Friday, we hadn't received anything, to call back.

Monday: Nothing, turns out it's a bank holiday down here for all saints day
Tuesday: Nothing, no excuse.
Wednesday: Still nothing
Thursday: Nada - starting to question the need for an "if" clause when told to wait till Friday
Friday: ....Of course not.

But this post is not to tell you about the angry (and by angry I mean they included a lot of "please" and "thank yous"...) emails I've sent to Fulbright and the PAD. I wanted to give you a little glimpse into surviving a week vacation with no money.

On Friday last week I pulled out 100€ from my ever-dwindling American account to last me till we got paid (which I now consider the same as saying "to last me for the foreseeable future"). This 100€ would be my only funding for the week, for necessities, fun, travel, whatever I wanted/needed all had to fit with in my 100€.

So what do you do on 100€ for a week with all the free time in the world? Well at the beginning of the week, Gemma (who still hasn't been paid either) and I were pretty active. On Friday night we went out in Forchheim for the first time. Luckily, as beer is cheaper than water, a night out doesn't run the bill up too much. On Sunday we went out to the Franconian Switzerland region (Fränkische Schweiz in German) and spent the day hiking, splurged a little for lunch. On Monday and Tuesday we spent time with some teachers with Gemma's teachers hiking and visiting a "wild animal park" (basically a zoo with mostly animals you can actually find in the area) However, as the week progressed and we grew more skeptical of ever receiving our payment, we toned down the excitement a little and have spent the last couple days in the apartment.

I decided to compile a little list of some activities that can be done for free or relatively cheap over here in Forchheim.
  1. hiking
  2. visiting castle ruins
  3. hiking
  4. visiting castles still in use
  5. hiking
  6. playing cards
  7. reading
  8. sleeping
  9. watching an entire season of Grey's anatomy
  10. drinking
  11. hiking
  12. websudoku
  13. pacing
  14. doodling
  15. facebook
  16. writing blog posts filled with unnecessary links
from my original 100€, I still have almost 40€, but I'm very wary about spending any since I still don't know when I'll be getting paid for sure. But Gemma and I decided this recent poverty we've encountered, if nothing else, has been very character building. (and my Sudoku skills are much improved too)

Monetary donations can be sent to the address listed in the About Me section.**

**just kidding. Please don't actually send money. I mean, unless you really want to. But not really.

Monday, November 1, 2010

New Pictures

Brand new pictures from the adventures of Gemma and Emily in Franconian Switzerland!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lesson Planning: Halloween

This lesson was prepared for a 6th grade class at a beginner level.

The thing I love most about working with these 10 to 12 year old kids, is that they have only been taking English for about a year and still I could carry out the lesson almost entirely in English. I'm still amazed at how quickly younger children are able to comprehend a foreign language!

This lesson was divided into two activities, with two different sets of vocab. The first was a worksheet I copied from another teacher, so unfortunately I can't post it here :-\ buuuuuut, it's pretty basic so I'll just give you the details.

it is basically a kid-crossword puzzle. There are 12 pictures and the children have to write the names of each picture in the corresponding blanks. The words were: Sweets (you know, the British word for candy), cauldron, spider, cat, pumpkin, ghost, star, witch, fire, web, bat, and skeleton. First we just looked at the pictures on the overhead and learned the vocabulary. I wrote all the words on the board as they answered. Then I turned the overhead off, but left the vocab words up and handed out the worksheet for them to fill in. They were given between 5 and 10 minutes to work together and fill it out. At the end, their answers revealed the hidden answer: Trick or treat!

After this we did what I like to call an interactive story. I wrote a simple ghost story for them that focused on six words: haunted, midnight, scary, spooky, ghost and wind/windy, and each word is assigned as sound (and yes, I named the main character after my brother...). Before reading the story we went through each word. I wrote them on the board and had them give me the German word for each. Then as a class we practiced our different noises for each word (before telling them which word they went with). Then I divided the class into 6 groups and assigned them each a word and told them what noise they got to make. (haunted: tapping on the desk, midnight: a single clap, scary: Ahh! *but you have to be sure to tell them only to do it quietly*, spooky: Ooooo, ghost: Boo!, and wind/windy: shhhhhh). then I read through the story with them making their different sounds.

I've done this lesson 3 or 4 times this week, and in some of the classes it didn't take the whole period, so an easy solution is to do the story again, but reassign the words.

They really seemed to get into the story part, and I think it is good because it keeps them focused while you read and they have practice listening to hear their word! good times. I will definitely do the interactive story thing again, it is easily adapted to any theme!

I don't have many older kids this week, but for a "fun" halloween lesson for them, I've just been filling out a Halloween madlib as a class. Simple and fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

woo hoo pictures

Pictures from Tag der offenen Brennereien and the Kerwa!

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the album for new pictures!

Fulbright - Fall 2010 (#2)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

VLOG #5!!

Wooo hooo!! It's Vlog time! Watch as I attempt to tell you about the local life... key word being "attempt"

But it does have a special surprise song :D

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music Club!

Yes, that's right, I have unofficially joined the Musikverein (which literally translates to music club) here in Forchheim. I say unofficially because I only went last week as a sort of "trial rehearsal," and I don't know if I need to sign a contract in blood or something first, but I'm definitely going to stay on!

What is a music club, you might ask. Well, you can check out the website (Musikverein Buckenhofen-Forchheim). But, on the off-chance that you don't speak German and can't understand the website (however, you can still see the awesome uniform I'll get to wear), it's sort of community music center. They have 3 or 4 different large ensembles, for all different abilities, classes for beginners, and small ensembles. I'll be playing with the sinfonische Blasorchester, which is basically the adult band. The members of this group are basically high school and up. It's a really nice group of people and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere!

I have to admit that sitting through a two hour rehearsal run entirely in German was both the coolest and strangest musical experience I've ever had. Although my musical vocabulary is pretty limited (well, it's not like we ever had a day in German class where we discussed practical music terms), I was amazed at how much I understood immediately just by context and familiarity. I had to laugh (or at least grin ear to ear) when the director used practice techniques quite familiar to me. Isn't there some saying about music being the international language? Pardon the momentary cheesey-ness, but it was really amazing to be sitting in a room of 50+ other people who learned to play music half way across the world from where I did, in a different language and a different culture, and just be able to make music with them.

They seemed pretty excited to have me because I rounded out their horn section to a complete 4. The music we played was probably on a level somewhere between the UGA symphonic band and wind symphony. But considering I haven't played my horn in... well, let's just say a while... I wasn't looking for anything too challenging. In a few moments of fleeting horn-nerdy-ness, I noticed that only 2 of the 3 other horn players played double horns. And both of the 2 double horns were yellow brass Geyer wraps. And when I consider the amount of conn 8ds I've played with (usually silver), I guess I just feel like back home you usually see Kruspe wraps.... just thought that it was a fun little observation.

So after every rehearsal, one section brings snacks and drinks to share. This was a fun way to get to talk to people too! And I've decided that every rehearsal should end with beer and cake! :)

I'm really excited to have found a musical activity. I don't think I really realized how much I missed it, till I found myself enjoying the rehearsal so much!

....and don't worry, I'm still working on a legit oompa-band to join, too. :D

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lesson Planning: Everyday English

This lesson was prepared for a 12th grade class at an advanced level. The first activity is easily adjusted for almost any level, but the second activity works best at the intermediate-advanced level.

The goal of this lesson was to focus on everyday English, or practical English. So instead of just working on academic English (analyzing a text, having a debate, etc.) we worked on simple English used in normal situations (making a reservation, returning something at the store, etc.). I used put together two different activities for this lesson.

To begin with, I wrote
short dialogues (there were 16 students in the class, this lesson works best with even numbers, but can be tweaked for an odd number) having to do with different "real life" situations, each dialogue was between a "speaker 1" and "speaker 2." I then divided the dialogues, so that for each scenario there was one sheet with only speaker 1 parts on it and one sheet with only speaker 2 parts on it. I passed out the parts randomly and had the students walk around the classroom and read their dialogues with each other, trying to figure out which speaker 1s and which speaker 2s belonged together.

Once they found their partners, we went through the class, reading the dialogues out loud (I wasn't actually planning to do this, but it didn't take as long as I had thought to find their partners, so I was killing some time). The students who did not read the dialogue were then asked to identify the situation. And, of course, I asked for any vocabulary questions after each dialogue.

Then, still with their partners, I handed them out
new scenarios that had to do with their original dialogue (for example, the group who's original dialogue dealt with making a reservation, now had to write a dialogue to change a reservation). I gave them about 15 minutes to write a new dialogue based on the scenario they were given. After they finished writing their own dialogue, they passed it to the group on their right, and we read through all the new dialogues out loud.

After having done this lesson now, I definitely think I would change/rearrange parts of it, but I think the main point still came across!

Lesson Planning: Smart Machines

This lesson was prepared for a 12th grade class at an advanced level, however, I think it can be easily adapted to work for most any grade or level.

For this lesson I used a text from the book (link to the text below) about smart appliances. It was written in a very informal style and used quite a bit of humor. With this sort of tone already set by the class, I didn't want to dull it down with just another boring old question and answer session, so I tried to think of something a little more interactive and exciting for the students to accompany the text.

To begin the lesson, I had the students read the article, "Remote Control" by Dave Barry, aloud as a class. The article is fairly short, so this only took about 7-8 minutes. I prefer reading texts out loud as a class because it is much harder for students to get away with pretending to know a word, or not realize they are mispronouncing/misunderstanding it. I also think it's just good practice in general for pronunciation - especially for students who otherwise don't speak in class too often. I also end any reading exercise by taking vocabulary questions straight away.

The text came with 4 or 5 discussion questions, so I took the first one ("Describe Barry's attitude to appliance manufacturers. Use quotations from the article to illustrate your answer.") and gave the students 5 minutes to work in pairs to answer the question. After they were given time to prepare their answers, I took examples from the class. Altogether, we probably spent about 10 minutes on this part of the lesson.

Through out the text were marked vocabulary words. I chose 5 (not for the number, but because they were the only ones that really worked with the activity) and wrote them on the board. In this case, the words were: at random, to decipher something, to disable something, appliance, and foolproof. I then called on students to define the vocabulary in their own words (this wasn't too difficult as they had the dictionary definition on their handout with the article). After defining the vocab they were given the following assignment:
In groups of 2, create a new smart appliance. Your appliance can be a modification of one that already exists, or something brand new. It doesn't have to be realistic, but it has to have a function. You must draw a picture of your new appliance, give it a name, and write an advertisement for it describing it's function and trying to sell it to the class using at least 3 of the 5 vocabulary words listed on the board.
So for another 15 minutes or so, they split into partners and worked on creating their own machines. During this part I just floated around the groups proof-reading sentences, helping with vocabulary and encouraging creative ideas. After they all finished creating their machines, they came to the front of the class, one at a time, and tried to "sell" their product to the class.

Overall, the students responded really well to the activity and came up with some pretty creative ideas (which I wrote about in an earlier post).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Unsere Schule ist bunt"

This is one of the many slogans on the many posters around my school proclaiming Ehrenbürg Gymnasium to be against racism.

Oh racism in Germany. Where do I start? To begin with, we must remember that this is not quite the overly race-sensitive and politically correct country that the USA tries to be. However, to one raised in the aforementioned environment, the "non-racist" racist comments heard around Germany can often be quite shocking. They would almost be endearing ("aw, those cute little Germans sure do hate the Turks!"), if they didn't make such blatantly offensive remarks. But I also can't only point the finger of racism at Germany - I hear equally as offensive things in the US, just usually on a more private level. Here it just comes out whenever the speaker sees fit (and as loud as they see fit, for that matter).

For example, in class today we were doing an exercise where students had to pick a few names from a list of 20 that they would kick out of a hot air balloon. The names ranged anywhere from Leonardo Da Vinci to Britney Spears, covering influential people throughout history as well as famous names in pop culture. I was working with one group when a student suggested, "We should keep Einstein because he is German!" to which another student answered, "Yeah... but he's JEWISH! And we should also get rid of Özil (a player for the German national soccer team) because he's half Turkish." Now in this case, I'm not entirely sure how serious he was being because he definitely had the class-clown thing going for him. But outbursts like this (especially about the Turks) are not uncommon here. I've had teachers complain about bad classes just because "well, it's mostly Turkish students..."

Like I said before, I can't point my finger at Germany alone, and as Avenue Q so eloquently puts it, "everyone's a little bit racist sometimes," but I do think there is a line somewhere.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

oh hey, washing machine

So this is how it all went down....

---Flash back to Sept. 9th, 2010: the day I moved in----

Me: So, is there a washing machine we can use?
Mama Baptistella: ermm.... well, there is one in my apartment, but well... uh.... do you need to do laundry today?
Me: oh... well, I mean, not right now, but eventually.
Mama Baptistella: ok, just let me know when you need to do laundry. Just buy your own detergent and bring your laundry down to me when you need it done
*exit Mama Baptistella*
Me: ummm... so Mama Baptistella is going to do my laundry every time I need it done? that's awkward...

----Flash forward to October 16, 2010: 20 minutes ago---

Gemma's teacher: (to Gemma) are you ready to bring your laundry over?
Mama Baptistella: Why would you need to do laundry there? we have a machine to use any time you want.
Me: but... well, do we need to ask first?
Mama Baptistella: ...No... It's just in the basement, you can use it whenever you want, just not on weekends, because that's when we use it.
Me and Gemma: WTF?!!!!


And that's the story of how we found out there is actually a washing machine in the apartment, free and available to use at our discretion, without supervision. So glad that was clear the first time. Well, at least I know what I'll be doing on Monday! Yay!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

did you just say that?!

Today I got to do a lot with my classes, so I thought I would post about it... that, and they were also pretty amusing at times!

My first class today was a 12 grade class that I know pretty well. I've been with them at least twice a week for the past 2 or 3 weeks. I've done one lesson on my own with them before, but it was basically a worksheet the teacher gave me with the questions already written there. So I pretty much had nothing to do with creating the lesson, I just carried it out. Well, for today's lesson, I was given the text again, but the actual lesson was left up to me.

To give you a little background, the text was about "smart" appliances, or how unnecessary they can sometimes be (e.g. a refrigerator that can tell you when it's out of milk). So we did the regular read-the-article-out-loud-in-class, go-over-vocab, talk-about-the-mood-of-the-author, give-examples-of-devices-used, etc. The thing that I love about this class (because lets face it, they are definitely my favorite class so far...) is that they all are so enthusiastic about participating! Even if no one offers up an answer right away, if you call on someone, they will speak. Which, I have found, is not always the case.

My "fun part" of the lesson was to create their own "smart appliance", draw a picture, give it a name, and write a description trying to sell it using 3 of the 5 vocab words. I was nervous that they wouldn't really get into the creative part, but they all responded really well! As I walked around the classroom to help them, I saw things like "the automatic board cleaner", "the cat washer" (which involved catching a cat with a mechanical arm and scrubbing it against a wash board), a few house-cleaning machines (including a broom with wheels and a full-on maid robot), the "super-duper-unbelievably-outstanding-marks machine" (a pair of glasses and bracelet to wear to school which help you always understand the texts you're reading and make sure you always write down the correct answer. The students also notified us that the upgrade would be released next year with in a contacts version). My favorite two (and by favorite, I mean most controversial/never would have been allowed in the states) were the "beer-and-more-o-matic" and the "woman translator".

Not that the idea of the Woman Translator would have been a bad one back home, but while presenting it they gave examples of a few translations. "If a woman says 'It's cold here', she means 'give me your jacket', if she says 'I want to go shopping', she means 'give me money'," etc. it was all pretty funny, but the real kicker was at the end. If you are easily offended by language, just go ahead and skip to the next paragraph... Their last example of a translation was "if a woman says she has a headache, what she really means is, 'I don't want to fuck tonight'." OMG. I can't imagine any setting back home in which that would be ok for a presentation! The class all laughed, but not the "I'm laughing because that was inappropriate" (the kind you would get in the States), just the "lol, that's funny" kind of laugh. The teacher was sitting right there and didn't say anything, so I just closed my eyes, had a good chuckle to myself, and pretended it never happened.

The "beer-and-more-o-matic" didn't have quite the shocking presentation, it was just the concept alone that would be an automatic no-no in an American classroom. "BEER?!" *gasp* Then again, these students can legally drink beer, whereas in the states, no high schooler is old enough to. The beer-and-more-o-matic was the perfect party machine: it brought you more beers, cleaned up after you, played music and had a deluxe version that would take your trash out.

Overall, it was a very entertaining class period for me and, I think, for the students as well! I was really pleased with their creativity and excited about their enthusiasm! :D Go team.

My next class was a 5th grade class. Adorable! I'd never been to this class before, so I didn't do any planning. First of all, I would just like to say how impressed I was with their language abilities! They can't have had much more than a year of English (if that!) and the entire lesson was conducted in English. The kids would often ask questions in Germans, and the teacher would sometimes repeat instructions in German, but otherwise, everything was in English. It makes me wish we had more options to start foreign languages at a younger age in the States. In the lesson, they were just learning how to use question words (who, what, where, etc.), so they were split up into groups of 6 and, group by group, were sent into the hall to interview me and figure out who I was (I wasn't introduced at all before hand, to help this exercise). It was really adorable! The first question from every group was "what is your name?", only one of the 6 groups asked for my last name as well. I thought it was pretty funny that almost all their 2nd questions were "how old are you?" The best part, however, was that only after a string of favorites (food, movie, song, color, number, outfit, among others) did they finally ask me where I was from :-p

My favorite question, that I only got from the last couple groups, was "Do you have a friend?" Sounds pretty depressing in English. "Well, I'm not even going to bother asking if you have friendS, because you obviously would only have one anyway, but I still have to ask if you have even ONE because I'm skeptical." Fortunately, knowing a little German myself, I knew that wasn't what they were thinking (umm... at least I hope not!) I knew their German question was "hast du einen Freund?" which literally does translate to "do you have a friend?", but the word "Freund" also means "boyfriend." There is really no clear way to differentiate in German whether "Freund" is supposed to mean "boyfriend" or "friend," it's mostly just contextually understood (well, there are idiomatic ways of differentiating, but I won't go into that). So when I got these questions, after quietly laughing to myself at the accidental and completely innocent demeaning question, I would repeat "do I have a boyfriend?"

And such is the life of the German English Teaching Assistant.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Picture update!

New pictures are up from last weekend's trip to Nürnberg. It was a beautiful day, so we walked around der Burg, or the castle, and enjoyed scenery!

Sorry I don't have too much else to report right now, after Oktoberfest the excitement has been slowing down a little bit. But I have started teaching more, so soon I will post a full report on that so far! :D

don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the page for the new pictures!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Prepare yourself for the most magical combination of Ikea, beer, Germans and Ke$ha!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I tend to put things in my life into categories: when I lived in the dorms vs. when I lived in Switzerland vs. when I lived in Arbor Creek. I do this especially with the categories PC vs. Mac. For example, there are two major cell phone companies in Germany: Vodofone and O2. Based on advertising and product design it's very easy to say Vodofone is "PC" and O2 is "Mac".... I'm hoping this makes at least a little sense...

Another category I often use is for education. When I was in Switzerland I was at the Universität Zürich, which I would consider a "UGA", where as then neighbor school was the technical university or a "GA Tech".

Well, here in Forchheim there are 2 high schools. One is very clearly a "UGA" and the other is definitely a "GA Tech". The UGA school offers an entire music program, with the opportunity to study individual instruments for class credit. They also focus more strongly on foreign languages and the school is 70% girls. Whereas the other school is more focused on math and sciences, they offer music classes, but not as a "main subject" and there are way more guys than girls. A definite "GA Tech".

So anyway, the point of this entire post is because I've been placed at the GA Tech school for the longer period! How rude! But I'll make it over the "UGA" after christmas.

oh, btw, Oktoberfest Vlog will be posted tomorrow!! So keep a look out, it's pretty fantastic :D

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Ok guys, pictures have been posted... post to come soon, I promise! I've just actually been - wait for it - busy!

Updated fall album (new pictures at the end)


Monday, September 27, 2010

more vlog!!

That's right, I've done it again! When will it ever end, you may be asking yourselves.

Who knows.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Music classes in Germany

So Yesterday I got to spend my morning observing two 7th grade music classes.

The first one I went to the teachers described as "praktisch" or "practical". In my opinion, it was more history-based. They started the lesson by singing a couple songs together - warming up, they're teacher told them. I noticed they didn't really discuss anything about the music they were singing, no looking at the meter, discussing the repeat signs, they just sang. To begin the actual lesson, they a cartoon drawing of 9 composers in a room, each with a defining characteristic. For example, Bach was surrounded by small children, beethoven had a hearing aid, Mozart was a small child at the piano, Schubert had a thought bubble of a man on a horse with his child (Erlkönig, anyone?), and Wagner was dreaming of an opera singer (besides, Wagner is incredibly recognizable, even in cartoon format). As a class they went through those, discussing why it was each one, which composers were grouped together (e.g. Bach and Handel were classical), where they lived (this was my favorite, because they were all cities the children actually knew! and some very close to the area... we're about 30 min Bayreuth), and what each composer was known for (church music, symphonies, piano music, etc).

After this review, the teacher explained that they would learn more about the Classical and Romantic periods in 8th and 9th grade, but in 7th grade, they would focus on Baroque. They listened to a typical Baroque piece and named the instruments they heard. When they got to the blockflöte, more commonly known to English speakers as the recorder, the teacher whipped one out to show them and busted out the piece they had just heard on it. I was impressed. They talked about why most music was composed in the Baroque period, where it was performed, who heard it, etc.

At the end of the class the teacher announced the school Big Band needed new members to replace those who had graduated. Who plays Saxophone? Who plays drums? Guitar? Trumpet? Trombone? Some of the kids had been playing their instrument for 4 or 5 years already (keep in mind they were only 7th graders) and when someone only had 1 or 2 years of experience the teacher would simply tell them, "oh, that's not enough, you can join in a year or two."

My second music class was again 7th graders and described to be more "Theoretisch" or "theoretical". When the teacher told me this, she seemed sure that I would not want to sit in on it. I had to explain to her that I had studied music in college and any sort of music class here, I would find very interesting. So I took my seat in the back of the class.

The lesson was 6/8 meter. They also warmed up by singing a song (in 6/8 of course), then the teacher began taking volunteers from the class to keep beet on various instruments. First just the dotted quarter beat on a tam (which I learned in German is still "tam" or "tam tam" or "aufhängende Tam" if it is on the drumset). After the class sing through with this new emphasized beat, a quarter-eighth quarter-eighth rhythm was added on the tamborine. 4 or 5 kids gave that a go before one of them could actually keep it consistant with the added singing. They did this exercise for maybe 20 or 25 minutes switching out different kids on all the instruments. Only afterwards did the teacher give an actual explanation of what 6/8 time was. They discussed why it wasn't the same as 3/4 even though it had the same amount of notes in it. then they reviewed the value of the notes: eighth, quarter, dotted quarter.

At the very end of the lesson, they discussed how a conducter would show 6/8 time to the ensemble. First the pattern in 6, then the pattern in 2 (with an explanation as to why it would need to be in 2)

So those were my music classes yesterday. Hopefully I'll be able to visit a few more through out the year. It's always very interesting. I also hope I'll get to sit in on some orchestra or big band rehearsals.

my first photo-shoot

I know I promised an update about the music classes first, but this was too strange... I had to post it!

I had to get some passport photos today so that I could get my visa to stay in Germany past the normal 90 tourism limit. Normally there are just photobooths all over that you can pay €5 and get your 4 passport photos. Well, does Forchheim have such advanced technology? Of course not. So I had to an actual photo shop and get a pack of passport photos made for €12! The price, however, is not what was so weird about the experience. So the first big difference that I noticed was there are several different types of "passport photos" because the ones for actual passports and IDs and driver's licenses all have a different format. The one I wanted was "biometrisch"... Not really sure what that means/translates too.

To give you a basis of comparison for this next part, let me tell you about all my passport photo obtaining experiences in the states:

I go to Sam's (where it's usually cheapest), they stand me against the closest white wall, take a picture, format it to the right size on the computer, and print it out. The end.

My experience this morning, however was much different:

I told them I wanted my biometrisch passport photos and they take me over to the shooting area. it was a little niche, but with very professional lighting, back-drop, tripod camera, etc. As soon as I sit on the stool, a woman came up to me with powder make up - "I'm just going to give you a little powder" - and proceeded to powder my face. Around the nose, forehead, chin, on the nose.... I felt like I was getting ready for news broadcast. Then another woman comes over to take the picture. "keep your shoulders back, now bring your head forward. No shoulders stay back. Look a little to the left, too much! now tilt your head to the right... ok, no smiling, look relaxed. relaxed. stay relaxed" She snapped three quick pictures then went over to the machine to format them down to size. Oh right, and completely edit my face. She's starts editing the picture, changing the lighting in places, smoothing out my skin... AND REMOVING MY FRECKLES! Legit. She pressed a button and BAM no more freckles. Now, no kid ever wants freckles when they're little; they're to the kindergartener what braces are to the 7th grader. But by the time you're 23 and you've lived through the childhood of torment, and relived the torment when South Park told the world about "gingers" and "day-walkers", they sort of become a defining part of you. Yes. I have a lot of freckles. They may look like specks of dirt, they might be evidence of my lack of soul, but they are part of me! But for the year, to the German foreign department, I will be Emily Gauld, freckleless.

Finally, after all the beautifying, posing and editing I got to take my pictures go get my visa.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Schon wieder?!

OMG! Another VLOG post?! Can you handle the excitement?

trust me, if they keep coming out at this rate, you'll be over it soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Liebe Grüße aus Starbucks

Hello everyone, from beautiful Starbucks in Erlangen. What makes this Starbucks so beautiful? Free wifi!! Woo hoo! So I thought while I was here, I would give you, my adoring fans, a quick update on my weekend... :D

As is apparently the life of a Fulbrighter, I have had so much free time! I was at school for a grand total of 5 hours this week. Tough, I know. Since I had Friday off, I met some friends in Nürnberg. Total, we were 5 Fulbrighters from around Bavaria (mostly between Nürnberg and Bamberg). We spent the day just walking around the altstadt, walked through a fall market, and had a few beers on the city wall! It was really not all that productive or constructive, but I have a feeling it won't be my last time in Nürnberg. And the important thing was we enjoyed ourselves :D

On Saturday I met my friend in Erlangen to use internet and take care of the business side of things and work on some Fulbright paperwork to be sent in. Afterwards, I headed to another friend's apartment outside the city for Funfetti cupcakes and dinner. Funfetti, it was like a taste of home! One of the girls had gotten it from her parents and brought it to share the joy with us. It was just a nice evening in with friends, nothing too crazy! Unfortunately, I didn't get back to Forchheim till about 12:45am and had to walk the mile or so home from the train station in the freezing cold! You think it would wear you out by the end of the night, but really it just wakes you up... a brisk walk in the 40º weather.

Today I spent the late morning walking around Forchheim, checking out some of the points of interest. The weather is just so beautiful right now, it was nice to walk around and soak up some sun. According to my teachers, the sunshine won't last much longer. Now I'm back in Erlangen getting my internet fix for the day with a couple friends (some of whom also don't have internet at home).

I also had such a great response the vlog that you can definitely expect more to come (and probably soon if I don't find anything productive to do with my free time!)

I'll do my best to be as interesting as possible before my next post :D

Friday, September 17, 2010


So I made an awesome vlog (video + blog = vlog) for you guys!! Check out by clicking the link below...

Monday, September 13, 2010

First impressions of Forchheim

I hate to disappoint, but if I don't give you the abridged version of my first weekend in Forchheim, you would all probably hate yourselves by the end... nobody wants to read that much and I don't really want to type that much.

I'll just let you know that, although she was almost 45 minutes late picking me up, my land lady got me from train station on Thursday (yes, the main train station that only has 4 tracks!) and brought me back to the apartment....

Ahh, the apartment.

It's actually pretty big. Unfortunately it looks like the 1970's threw up on it. I've already been to Ikea, so my room looks like it might actually come out of this century, but the rest still needs work! (Hey, have you seen the pictures?! Check them out to get the full experience: PICTURES!) Here are some highlights from the apartment (you can find PICTURES! of all these):
  1. American flag bed sheets! I actually slept in that bed for 3 nights. I've never felt more patriotic.
  2. the world's tiniest shower. But THANK GOD there's a bath tub... right... don't you always take baths???
  3. Slanted ceilings in every room. You can't actually walk all the way to both ends of any room standing straight unless you're about 2 feet tall.
  4. the fact that the oven is kaputt (that's German for broken.)
  5. (My personal favorite:) The barbed-wire toilet seat. There are no words, you just have to see the pictures.
When I got there, my land lady told me I pick from one of two rooms and said the middle room would just be empty. Well... my choices were
  • room with big bed, horrible desk, no way to rearrange, door to the patio, but no real way to decorate
  • giant room with 2 twin beds, the world's ugliest couch (seriously), pretty nice desk, but just too big to work with.
So I peak in the middle "empty" room to find a cozy room fully furnished with a nice desk, great storage space and a sky-light type window on the slanted ceiling. I wanted that room! So after 3 nights of crashing in the super giant room I finally just ask my land lady "is it ok if I take the middle smaller room?" You would have thought I asked if I could trade her soul for chocolate. She could not understand at all why I would possibly want the smallest room. I tried to explain that it was just more comfortable for me and I didn't like living in a giant room. I feel like she doesn't trust me anymore because I like small rooms.

But I do love my little ikea'ed middle room! It's working out pretty nicely!

Today I had my first day at school. School actually starts tomorrow, but today was the welcome back teachers meeting. Yeah, one day before students come back, the teachers decide they should show up too. The meeting was in teacher lounge and I was quickly reminded of the German's need for order - my mentor teacher had to help me find a seat because everyone had "their" seat and you can't just sit there (mind you none of these seats are actually assigned, they just always sit in the same place). We got there almost 30 minutes early so there was a lot of meeting people, shaking hands and saying "yes, I do actually know German." I ended up sitting near and talking to a couple new teachers/referendar[in]

HEY! what's a Referendar? Well, in Germany, to become a teacher, instead of 1 semester of student teaching, you have to go through 2 years as a "probationary teacher" or a "referendar" (and if you're a female - "referendarin"). Meaning these people are usually younger and right out of Uni (that's basically a Europe-wide way of saying "university")... hey, like me!

I wasn't following the meeting completely because 1. it was hard to follow without being familiar with their educational system and 2. my teachers gave me their text book to look through. I think the text book deserves a post of it's own. I'll give you just this one example:

if you're traveling to the UK or the USA, you'll meet lots of people in many different situations. Both countries and their people are considered very polite. This means they are often less direct that the Germans.

The English are famous for 'understatement'. here is an example: (there's a picture of a wooden bench)

Accurate description: A very hard, uncomfortable bed.
English understatement: the bed is a little on the hard side

the section goes on to explain small talk, which is a completely foreign concept to Germans.

At some point in the meeting, I noticed they started announcing students names then going through their grades "English: 3, Math: 4, Latin: 4 - they passed" (oh, btw, in Germany 1 is the best grade you can get and 6 is the worst, 4 is passing) I missed the whole who and why part, but I thought it was an interesting technique. They went on to announce students by name who did not pass on to the next level, students who left the school, and students that would probably need extra attention...

at 5 there was a short break, so they let me leave. I don't have to go to school tomorrow, because it will probably just be a lot of meetings, rule readings, etc. So my first real day will be Wednesday, then I just observe for the first week or so before diving. At least I'm pretty confident in my abilities to speak English, if nothing else.

Friday, September 10, 2010


oh you silly German language, you! Einführungstagung is how you say "orientation"... and that's where I was at the beginning of this week!

About an hour after the last post I did wake up, get dressed, packed and caught a cab to the bus that took me to the airport that took me to Germany. Oh, but there's more. Once in Bremen (the city I flew to) I had to get from the Airport to the train station. Of course I take the tram. But even though I planned on buying my ticket from inside the tram, I couldn't figure out the system there, so I just rode the tram without buying a ticket (what, in German, is known as "schwarzfahren") The very first thing I did when I got to Germany for my Fulbright year? Schwarzfahren. But I made it to the train station undetected, and bought my train ticket to Köln where we were meeting to take the bus to the orientation hostel.

At the meeting point, there was already a pretty sizable group of Fulbrighters gathered around. As new people came up we played the same game of "What's your name? Where are you from? Where will you be teaching?" I met a lot of people and forgot a lot of names. Our hostel was sort of church affiliated deal, connected to a Cathedral. I really knew I was in the right place when, during the opening remarks, the director assured us that the "strict no alcohol policy" would be lifted for our visit before even going over the schedule for the week. We were divided into rooms based on Geography, so that our roommates and hallmates were all people who would be teaching in neighboring cities. My roommate happened to be a girl I met right away in Köln. The best part was, we pretty much bonded right away because she had also spent a year for study abroad in Zurich a year or two before me! Swiss German runs deep.

Over the next two days we were divided into groups based again on Geography. It was nice to get to know all the people in your area, but was also helpful because the schools vary slightly from state to state. It was pretty amazing, though, how most the people I really started to get along well with were those also from Bavaria. What can I say, we're a special breed down in the south.

We spent our days learning about the German school system, speaking with former Fulbrighters, learning how to teach, and actually getting a chance to "teach" a class (of our peers pretending to be German students) ourselves. And every night they brought in German beer and wine (we had to pay for that though, but it was only like 1 euro for a half a liter!)

Overall it was a really positive experience. I feel a lot more comfortable about working in a German school and more prepared to teach them. I also really enjoyed getting to know all the other Fulbrighters and comparing stories, concerns, experiences, etc. It's nice knowing everyone is basically feeling the same excitement and apprehension

I'll post more tomorrow about my arrival in Forchheim and the new apartment. Suffice it to say an emergency trip to Ikea is in store!

Monday, September 6, 2010

British English

I decided to really concentrate on practicing my British English whilst enjoying all that Edinburgh has to offer.

Don't forget to get the full blog experience by following along with the picture commentary posted: HERE

I have had an amazing 2 weeks here in Edinburgh visiting my friends from Zurich and am very sad to see it have to end. Post-my-last-update, things have been more or less calm. After the fancy party (interesting to see a high-end Edinburgh flat, but awkward to be the guest of the girlfriend of the child of a guest...), we went out in the city to meet people for drinks. Although, it was supposed to be a pub crawl, after standing in our heels all evening, Shahida and I abandoned any plans that implied movement and decided to stay at a whiskey bar so I could try my first authentic Scottish whiskey. I'm really a hard liquor person, and especially not whiskey, but I could definitely appreciate the two whiskeys I tried. However, I don't think I'll be picking up the habit anytime soon.

On Sunday we slept in late and went to the castle in the afternoon. Of course the weather was amazing -- as it has been the entire time I've been here -- so we took our time enjoying the castle and the many different museums. I'd definitely recommend visiting the castle to anyone visiting Edinburgh!

Wednesday morning, Shahida didn't have to go into work, so we took the opportunity to wander up Arthur's Seat - the highest hill in Edinburgh. Although it was the first overcast day since I arrived, it was still an amazing view over the entire city. At the top most point, there were maybe 30 people gathered checking out the many views, contemplating the meaning of life, etc. when a girl announces: "everyone, if I could just make a quick announcement, I just want you to know while we're up here with this breath-taking scenery that Jesus loves us, and he saves. Jesus saves!!!!" And then everyone continued with their conversations, picture takings, and hiking as if no one had said a word. Almost to the point where I thought I made up the crazy mountain top evangelist. But Shahida heard her too... proof that the bible belt doesn't have all the crazies. But to her credit, it was pretty cool to be up there.

I spent most the day Thursday in the city visiting museums and monuments. Highlights included seeing Dolly the cloned sheep (the original... I think...??!!) at the natural history museum and seeing paintings by Botticelli, Raphael and Da Vinci. I also climbed the almost 300 stairs to the top of the Scott Monument. Definitely worth the £3, but not recommended to anyone who has a problem with small spaces. There is only one staircase for up and down, and it's the most narrow spiral staircase I've ever been on. There were parts that were so narrow it was physically impossible to pass someone, you just had to decide who had gone furthest and send someone back up or back down till everyone could get through. but again, worth the amazing view over the city.

Friday and Saturday Shahida and I spent in the highlands. I could go into the amazing beauty of the area, but it's better in the pictures (link in my last post). What I'll definitely remember about that trip, besides the scenery... is the walking! first we arrive in the city center only to have to trek a mile and a half back out to our hostel. After arriving, unloading and eating lunch we check out the hikes in the area. The number one recommended hike was to the Lost Valley. Six kilometers from our hostel. We could walk or call a cab. So guess what we did... But I actually am really glad we walked, because we got to enjoy the mountains more! and we saw highland cows. Totally worth it! The hike itself was only just over 2km to the valley then back out. Unfortunately this was a valley you actually had to climb half the mountain to get to. And I don't just mean walk on an upward incline. We were literally climbing up rocks for bits of the path. It was very intense. After almost 2 hours of beautiful nature and mild self-loathing, we made it to the Lost Valley. It was, of course, beautiful. We sat down for a while to rest up, enjoyed playing with the mountain echos too much, then began the sojourn back. Of course it took all of 40 min to get back off the hike since it was all down hill. but we still had our 6 km trek back to the hostel. All in all we figured out that we walked over 16km that day. gross.

Needless to say we past out in the hostel....
oh wait, that was a lie. we were in a 6 person room and one of the guys snored so loud all night Shahida and I barely got an ounce of sleep!

So the next day we decided to rent bikes and cycle over to the next town. We stopped for a relaxing lunch and a game of scrabble before heading back in. We returned our bikes then walked another 2 miles back out to catch the bus.

Today was spent mostly packing, with a final trip to the city for fireworks! Now I'm supposed to wake up in an hour to catch a cab by 4am, but of course I can't sleep because waking up to be at the airport in time to catch a 6:20 am flight is mildly stressful. But I'm very excited to be off to Germany, meeting new people and getting settled into my apartment. I'll be in a small town just outside Cologne until Thursday, then off to Forchheim! Unfortunately I don't know when I'll have access to the internet again, so this might be it for a couple weeks, but I'll update as soon as I can!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Pictures from the Highlands are up! a real post and more pictures to follow...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Innocent Gun

Just a few observations/happenings in Edinburgh so far:
  • The weather has been gorgeous! Mostly sunny and reaching into the mid 70's everyday.
  • The Fringe Festival, an annual comedy festival in the city, is currently taking place, meaning there are very entertaining street performers all over the city and all kinds of comedy shows to attend during the day and night. Last night we went to a comedy act at 12:15 (am!) by a group called the Axis of Awesome. They did not disappoint
  • I have been really impressed by the food so far. I've tried to keep it very native, partaking in such delicacies as fish and chips (yum!), haggis complete with mashed potatoes and turnips (another yum... if you just don't think about what it really is. google it), and baked potatoes where you can order all sorts or pre-made toppings - I chose cheese, onion and pineapple (a very big YUM!). Last night we had a more traditional Swedish meal with crawfish (where I discovered a deep-seated affinity for playing with food that has a face), crab quiche (my contribution which actually fit nicely since the traditional side dish is cheese quiche!), Swedish schnaps, and a delicious Swedish desert of strawberries in a whipped cream-ish mixture
  • Scottish beers are weak!! They're really lacking in the flavor department. I know I got conditioned to like really bitter and hoppy beers with Terrapin, and I was prepared for a lack of bitterness. But man! I was really expecting more out of the beers. I even tried a Scottish IPA (a type of beer that is characterized by it's extra hoppy flavor) and that was a let down! The one beer I've liked is actually a local Edinburgh beer called Innis & Gunn. Even though I was sure every one was saying "Innocent Gun" for the longest time, I finally tried it last night and it does have plenty of flavor, it's just a little too sweet to drink a lot of. I guess I'll just have to hold out for the whiskeys.
  • The busses are a little crazy here. It's not enough to be standing at the bus stop, you have to actually flag down your bus when you see it coming, otherwise it will just speed past you. I found this out the hard way! Then on the bus, you have to press the stop button like normal, only they don't announce or show the next stop in any way, so you basically have to know exactly where you're going to know where to get off! But it is pretty fun to ride on the top of a double decker bus!
  • There are so many GINGERS! Normally I'm very territorial about being "the redhead" but here there is a sense of camaraderie among us gingers. I am at home among my people.
Simon's parents came in town last night, because tonight there is a big fancy party at one of their friends' places. We are all invited! I'm excited to get all dressed up! We didn't get back in till about 3:45 last night (and we walked a good mile or so home from the city center) so today is a pretty lazy day - just doing some quick shopping in the city then coming back to get all fancied up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I think my day of traveling (all 36 hours) counts as the longest trip I've ever made by myself! Although the man at the airport saved my life with the extra weight fees of the bags, I found myself restoring balance to the universal yin and yang almost immediately. 41D was my seat on the plane. Usually I like to ask for a window seat, but because the man who checked me in was doing such a huge favor anyway, I decided I could live with D, which on most planes is an aisle seat - most international planes I've flown having 3 rows of 3. Not this plane. For 8 hours I sat uncomfortably sandwiched between two strangers in the middle seat of the middle row. I usually love flying - the longer the flight, the better! 12 hours China? Loved it! But 8 hours in seat 41D and my perspective has changed slightly.

We arrived at Gatwick 30 min early (6:30gmt/1:30est). In the airport I had to open and repack one of my bags to switch out my giant carry on for my horn. Yes, I checked my horn. And this is how:
  1. place horn safely inside case
  2. pad empty space in case with socks, underwear, etc.
  3. place entire horn case inside large piece of luggage
  4. place shoes in empty spaces of luggage to prevent sliding
  5. pad empty space of luggage with large coats and t-shirts
I was glad to see that my horn made it safely through it's first sub-cabin adventure, although I never really want to have to do that again. So after trading my carryon luggage for my horn I was ready to head off into the city!

I had been debating for several days before the trip if I would try to navigate the Tube (£1.80) with my two bags weighing over 50lbs each or if I would just take a taxi (~£20). After struggling... no, not just struggling, straight up battling my bags just to get them on the Gatwick express I knew there was no way I was getting anywhere fast with them on the Tube, or period, really. Fortunately pretty much every bus in the city stops by London Victoria, so I found one that would go straight to King's Cross. And Although I was obviously out of place with my giant suitcases on the full bus, it only cost £2 and my luggage and I both made it safely across the city.

When I arrived at King's Cross, they were just announcing the platform for the train to Edinburgh. Unfortunately it was the 10am train and I was on the 1:30pm train. Yes. I was almost 4 hours early to the train station. So I got a luggage trolley, loaded up what was surely well over 120lbs of luggage and hung out. for 4 hours.

***side note to Harry Potter fans:
Of course my first instinct while at King's Cross Station was to visit platform 9 3/4, so
after about an hour in the station I did just that. Immediately I faced several problems with this endeavor. First, you can't even enter that section of the station without a ticket (I wonder if they accept letters from Hogwarts?). And from what I could tell, tracks 9 and 10 no longer share a platform. Forcing what is sure to be hundreds of young wizards running straight into the tracks to reach the Hogwarts Express. However, when in London in 2008, I made sure we sidetracked out to King's Cross to get some pictures at the infamous wizarding platform, but it appears that area is currently blocked off for construction. I hope they get it ready by september 1, for the first day of school! ;)

Four hours later, after sleeping, eating, reading, doing circles around the station, etc. I loaded everything on to the East Coast line to Edinburgh - a 4.5 hour journey. Despite the strain of now having been awake for 24 solid hours, I only managed to doze for about 1 hour on the train. for the other 3.5 hours I plugged in my iPod and watched the British country side fly by. It was gorgeous! I would recommend taking a train across the UK just to see it all! Shahida and her boyfriend, Simon (who I also knew from Zurich), met me at the station! Thank God Simon was there, because he carried one piece of luggage up the 4 flights to their apartment and came back to get the mine before I even reached the 2nd floor!

I think I managed quite well, not having slept for so long. I allowed myself to sleep till noon yesterday, thinking I deserved a solid 11 hours of sleep after my long journey. But I was up by 9 this morning, so I don't succumb to jetlag. I haven't really noticed it too much so far.

Yesterday I spend the day sleeping and reorganizing my suitcases so I could actually find things in them, then we went into the city to have fish and chips for dinner (which I actually liked!) then went to the movies (only £3 because it was student night) to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Today I'm meeting Shahida for lunch at work then wandering around the city before meeting up again for dinner and drinks!

There are a lot more plans in the works, but there'll be time for that later.

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